Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hard Things

Hard things

I used to blog so regularly. It was such good therapy for me and so often help me see how God was working in my life. But seasons change and I stopped doing it. However, I find myself full of words and needing to express how I see God working yet again.

Recently, I have had to walk through a hard thing: losing a child in the second trimester of pregnancy. Hard things are hard. So many thoughts and feelings and emotions. Grief, fear, anger, questions, denial, pain. Such strong things. 

I have to back up and tell you a little more of my story. 

This pregnancy was quite a surprise for me. Now, I’m old enough to know exactly how this works. And I do mean exactly. Just to be transparent, Mike and I were intentionally preventing this. 

I have to back up a little more. This is my 7th pregnancy.  However, I only have 3 children with me on this side of heaven. Lauren and Moriah were two healthy pregnancies back to back 5 years apart. 2 years after Moriah was born, we experienced our first loss at 17 weeks along. The second loss was right after the first at 15 weeks in. That loss was difficult in every sense of the word.
4 years later I found myself pregnant again and miscarried at 10 weeks.  
Three more years passed and along came sweet little Hollis. A surprise blessing of a full term, beautifully healthy pregnancy, delivery and baby!
Then, this littlest Pueschell came and stole our hearts. He was loved, prayed for and anticipated with joy for 19 weeks before he entered his home in heaven. With this kind of history, I tell you that God, Mike and I have covered some ground here before. 

After the initial shock of seeing two pink lines on that test, reality began to settle in. I told God, “OK. I’m in. I’m yours and this body is yours and I trust you.” Because of my three prior losses, my pregnancy with Hollis was nearly unbearable with stress. I battled fear that I would lose him too. I battled fear like never before while pregnant with him. I even battled fear for quite a while after he got here safely. So to find myself pregnant again, was quite surreal. It felt only laughable. We wont even discuss the fact that I’m 41 and all that brings to the equation. However, at the end of the day, I hopped on board with God, trusting his faithfulness for me and our family. I chose joy. Oh such joy. 

Back to the last few weeks. I felt a shift in the pregnancy and began to worry. I battled and reassured myself all was fine. But the worry did me in and I finally called the midwife and went in for a check. Low and behold our sweet little one was perfectly fine. I saw the baby myself on the sonogram screen in the office, the heartbeat was nice and strong. Little one was even moving his hands, almost seemingly waving at me to as if to say “Hey mom, all is good in here!” Relief came flooding like a storm surge. Yet a few days later, I was battling my emotions and things I thought I was feeling/not feeling again. I just kept rehearsing to myself, all is well, and was running in and out of His peace. Finally, only 13 days after my previous visit, along came Wednesday, our official sonogram visit. The big one they do half way to measure growth of the baby and determine the gender.  

The technician found no heartbeat. 

There are just no words.

Now I find myself walking this familiar and awful road again. Raw. Empty, yet full of emotions. This, this is a hard thing. 

As I began searching for Jesus, I compared myself to other people have to walk through hard things. Wild fires, hurricanes, public shootings, you pick a national disaster. Cancer, divorce, a terminally sick child. I can certainly imagine more difficult things than my current situation.  A small amount of comfort came in the comparison. But really, when you are in the middle of a hard thing, the truth is, it’s just dang hard! And it is not to be compared or minimized to someone else’s hard thing.
When previously walking this road, the only way I found peace was in surrender. So I surrendered. I surrendered much more quickly this time than the last time I found myself here. I reminded God that I meant it 14 weeks ago when I said I was “in”. I asked him to teach me how to grieve. To teach me how to suffer well. He reminded me of an encounter with a man in John chapter 9. The disciples are walking by a blind man and they ask Jesus, who sinned, the man or his parents? Jesus’ response was: Neither, It was so that the power of God might be seen in him. 


Another hard part that was different from my previous losses was having an active family, and the fact that life does indeed go on. Trying to juggle around trips that had been planned, birthdays, schedules, etc brought to the surface in me an idol of control that was ugly. Almost before I had begun walking this road, in my grief and anger I missed several potential opportunities for God’s power to be seen. Grief is a hard thing. And surrender is a daily choice that grief does not give exemption from. I had surrendered to the fact that this pregnancy was over, but I was self-righteously fighting how the days and weeks would follow to close this chapter. There were issues with my insurance company and poor communication that left me feeling hurt, overlooked and so unsure.
On the morning of the day to deliver the baby, I came to Jesus one more time, exhausted, heartbroken, and full of anxiety. I begged for his presence and he gently showed me my self-absorption. I remembered my own confession of being “in” and realized how true that was not in the previous week. The dance of surrender and relief are only so perfectly in step in His grace.  The gift of repentance brought peace and rest. In perfect mercy, Jesus gave me a beautiful redeeming moment that will forever be etched in my memory. It was the birthday of my firstborn and would be the birthday of my lastborn.

Hard things are hard.

So what do I do with all this? Where does all this leave me and how I see God working?

Here are some bottom line thoughts: 

  ~ I believe that everything about me being a woman is created in the image of God. I believe all that makes me feminine in character is made in his image. I believe the ability to bear and bring forth life is a reflection of our mighty God. I believe that the enemy, who can only bring forth death, is driven wild in anger by that gift. In fact, I think the depth of his hatred and jealousy of women and all they represent is why so much of femininity is under his constant attack.

  ~ Hard things are hard! And some hard things are dang hard! But my hard thing is no less than your hard thing and your hard thing is no less than mine. They are not to be compared nor minimized. We are promised troubles in this word. It is a sure and absolute certainty. However, we are given equally certain promises that we will never have to walk them alone. Promises of sufficient and daily grace. Promises of rest in our weariness and strength in our weakness. Promises of hope and uncommon peace in the midst of doubt and chaos. Promises of a purpose bigger than me and my own personal legacy.

  ~ Hard things do not have to define us. But they absolutely shape us. My circumstances are merely that; the surrounding conditions of hurt and casualty. They are not the full measure of who I am. My identity is not a mom who has miscarried 4 babies forever in grief and loss. What distinguishes me as an individual is the fact that I am a daughter of the King of Kings! What defines me is that I am I dearly loved child of the Most High! Hard things give us the opportunity to run to our Comforter and be comforted and held so close. To tenderly crawl up in the lap of The Resurrection and find rest and peace. Hard things can also shift our hearts to grow cold when we don’t draw near. Hard things can shape and warp our perspective when we try to wrestle it out in our own limited understanding. Hard things do no have to define us but they most definitely will shape us. The freedom is we get to choose what shape.

  ~ If the blind man had to walk a hard life so that others would see the power of God in him, then Lord, I want others see you in this hard thing. I know my husband and my daughters are watching. And boy do I ever want my kids to see and know Jesus! I want to grieve well. I want to suffer well. I want the power of God to be seen in me. My circumstances, like the blind man, are not the result of my sin or my parents sin. But they are an opportunity for the Lord to work.  An opportunity for him to move and display for others that are watching what miraculous life looks like.

  ~ One last thing I see God teaching me is what the Word means for us to die daily. It is a submission of my will, a release of control. It’s not a submission that is only required when life feels comfortable. It is a daily relent that I am not the author of my own story. Submission is purposed to be a gift to us. A gift in the humbling reality that we actually control so little. It is a gift that ushers in his daily, sustaining grace. A gift that brings fresh and all sufficient mercy. The things I do have control over are my perspective and my response.  Both of which will vary greatly depending on whether or not I choose to surrender.

I don’t get it all right. Not ever close. But I don’t want to mess up any more of this opportunity of walking through a hard thing. Especially as I hope to never walk this exact road again. Hard things are hard. But His grace is enough. I’ve been far enough down this road with Him to tenderly know it’s true. 

My hope in sharing all this is not just personal therapy, although it certainly helps. My hope in sharing my story is to encourage you in your hard thing. Your hard things IS hard! Relationships, regret, financial stress, loss, health issues, whatever it may be, acknowledge it. Don’t minimize or compare it. It will shape you, it’s meant to. But it does not have to define you. Ask Jesus what power he wants others to see in this. It is powerful to walk through a hard thing and come out of it on the other side. We have the comforting rest that He works ALL things for good for those that love him. 

If you find your self walking a hard road and in need of a walking partner, I’d be honored to be a walking buddy. He gives enough grace. So very often it comes through the hands and feet of others. We can learn together how to grieve well and suffer well. We can be an opportunity for others to see His power.

If the ground that God, Mike and I have covered in the past might be a blessing to you, you can check out those thoughts here. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Storage Wars

The other day I tried out a new recipe and made some black bean humus. It was seasoned with garlic, cilantro, lime juice and so yummy! After I ate one (or five) servings, the recipe said to store in an airtight container in the fridge. There was just the right amount left that the game began to pick the right size storage bowl.

Now first of all, all that I have in my kitchen, old butter dishes and KFC take out side dishes included (Oh you know you were excited too when you saw that fun little dish said dishwasher safe!), is all referred to as Tupperware. Sorry Rubbermaid and Glad, you will forever be Tupperware to me.
The next thing you should know about my kitchen is when we moved several years ago I purged all bowls and lids that had no mates. I keep all the dishes in one space of my kitchen and all the lids in a big box in another space. (Will there ever be a perfect way to store bowls and lids?)

So the infamous game began of eyeballing the amount of my remaining fabulous hummus in the serving dish and picking the perfect size Tupperware to keep it in. Side note here, I have so many memories of being in my mom's kitchen after a big meal and playing this game. She was a champ at this and would get it perfect nearly every time. I was queen of picking a bowl that was waaay to big and nearly eliminted the whole concept of storing leftovers in a smaller container, or the other extreme, choosing and filling a Tupperware completely and finding myself with three more spoonfuls left of food that were just NOT going to fit. Makes me giggle to think about it. Maybe this explains why I can never accurately judge and serve myself the proper chips to salsa ratio either! I digress.

Back to the point of the story. By now, I'm sure you can guess what happened. I found the perfect size Tupperware and won the Will-All-This-Fit-In-Here game with flying colors. In fact, I was pleased with my bowl choice as it was one I had not used in a while due to it's size. All was well with the universe. I move my perfectly portioned remaining hummus over to the other counter to get the lid out of the Tupperware lid box. I remember this bowl specifically even though I haven't used it in a while, it's a royal blue square with a little tab on the side. These kinds of details are the ones that we women memorize that baffle and entertain my hubby. Grin. I began hunting for the lid. I know it's in there. I'm sure of it. But, I'm not finding it. So I take out some of the lids so I can better hunt. A new game has begun that I am NOT winning and quickly moves from a game to Mission Impossible as I empty the ENTIRE big box of lids looking for the small royal blue square with the tab on the side. It is not here and nowhere to be found among this plethora of perfectly formed plastic. Aggravation sets in. And then the next round of choices begins. Do I just eat the remaining amount hummus now? Oh don't judge me, I told you it was a small bowl. haha Do I foil the top and hope I remember to throw the bowl away after I finish my yummy hummus in a few days? No, it needs to be in something airtight and likely I'll forget the dish has no top and find myself in this same predicament at a later date! So my only option is to go back and play the Will-All-This-Fit-In-Here game again and hope I can win two times in a row. I did find another Tupperware and it's matching lid, although it was not as a perfect fit at my first try and thus our little story has an end.

As I began cleaning up all my bowls and lids it occurred to me, well first, that it's time to match and purge all my Tupperware again! Haha  But more importantly how many times in my life do I store and keep things that just really wont help me or are just no match for my life?  Old wounds. Unrealistic expectations. Unfulfilled longings. Regret. Worry. An ungrateful attitude. It's interesting to think about how many containers we have in our hearts. Spaces we make within our selves to put pieces of our souls. I think there are many moments in life we are to store up airtight as treasures just like Mary did when the shepherds came at the birth of Jesus. But like the Tupperware in my kitchen, my heart needs a regular purging. Throwing away all the containers that just don't work for me anymore.

Jesus had something to say about the Tupperware of his day. In Matthew 9:17 he says this:
Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved. 
(Im sure wineskin translates to Tupperware somewhere.)

What a great picture. My old sinful heart cannot hold the new wine of Jesus' love. It bursts every single time. But Jesus said he makes all things new including my heart and it's ability to be loved by the King. On my own I try to earn his love and make space to hold parts of my soul that really need to be thrown out.  But through the beauty of the cross Jesus makes my heart brand new. And he keeps perfectly the things that need holding into. He makes in me a container that holds his love wholly. A heart that beats for him and treasures the only thing really worth possessing - himself.

Jesus, you are good and you do good! Like yummy black bean hummus you feed me with your words of life. These are the things I want to keep. But how often my soul makes space to hold and garner things that aren't worth preserving. Purge me Lord. Get rid of the spaces that are no match for the new person I am in you. Create in me a clean heart oh God and help me to store up treasures in heaven.  You always win the Will-All-This-Fit-In-Here game because you only give exactly what I need. Thank you. Use my heart Jesus, that others may taste and see that you ARE good. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Thought Check!

Remember in high school on the church bus trips some adult trying to be hip and funny would yell "Hand check!"? And all the kids put their hands up to show that no ones hands where anywhere they weren't supposed to be.  It was half playful and half serious. It was always for those kids who sat in the back and mysteriously got suddenly sleepy! Teenagers are teenagers and hormones don't care if it's a church bus or a school bus. I know cause that was me and Mike. (Did I just confess that?!) Temptation can be very inviting when the setting is just right.

It occurred to me today I need someone to randomly durring tempting times in life to yell at me "Thought Check!" It seems far too often my thoughts are not where they are supposed to be. It's seductive to look at our feelings and circumstances and let our minds run away with what ever bait is put before us. Since the garden, the enemy has been after our thoughts. He is ever skillful at presenting opinions that try to keep us from knowing God and believing him. See if you can relate:

~Life hands over a loss of some kind - a relationship, a death, a job. It's tempting to think God doesn't care, he could have prevented that.
Thought check! - Jesus weeps with us when our hearts our broken. There is a day coming when he will restore all things as they should be. (John 11:32-44) 

~Finances seem impossibly tight and wiggle room nonexistent.  It's tempting to think if I just had more money I'd be _______.
Thought check! - The things that money can do and buy are temporary treasures that have an end, can break, are quickly outdated and can be stolen/destroyed. Jesus says store up treasure in heaven and not to worry about food and clothes and basic needs. God gave us his Son, don't we know he will freely give us all we need? (Matthew 6:19-34; Romans 8:32)

~The future is uncertain in a difficult circumstance - think a diagnosis, home value/the economy, a relationship teetering on the edge, or the direction your company is going. It's tempting to worry about the outcome and what that outcome means for you.
Thought check! - We are told to pray, take our thoughts captive and think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and things that are worthy of praise.   (Phil 4:6-8, 2 Corinthians 10:5)
I'm learning that right thinking leads to right believing which leads to right living. Scripture teaches that our lives can be transformed if we will quit our stinkin' thinkin' and start to ruminate on what he illuminates. (Hey hey hey! How about that witty, corny rhyme?) We don't have to give into to whatever temptation the enemy wants to deceive us with. We can make a choice to oblige when the Helper whispers "Thought Check!" to our hearts. Check out this verse and be encouraged:
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. 1 Corinthians 10:13

So how about you? Is the bus ride tempting your emotions to believe something other than the truth?
Need someone to yell Thought Check! at you? It's OK, I'm right there with ya. Man! Did someone just take their shoes off?! Gross! I'm just hoping the van driver doesn't pull the ol' Brake Check! trick on us too. Are we there yet?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


In the last few weeks it seems as if my girls have taken "I'm going to aggravate my sister" pills in high dosage. The nit picking and provoking, the pesky tone of voice and little peeves have just been in abundance. And it's all little things. They are not calling each other names, they are not out and out fighting, they are not on a scale of 0-10 in Obnoxiousville, they are just not enjoying each other. Consequently, no one else is enjoying them not enjoying each other either!

Friday night after a particularly prickly exchange between them, Mike and I decided some intervention was necessary. We came up with the plan to make them hold hands for an hour and a half. Great idea! I wish I could say I came up with it on my own, but I saw a similar idea on Pintrest. And so the discipline began. Here is the first few minutes of joy.

Hahahaha I must confess, I might have enjoyed this a bit too much. We gave them a few chores to do and it wasn't long before there were giggles galore and the irritability was gone. It was a great exercise and reminder of how we want to live life. After the time had lapsed and they were granted their freedom back, we talked about love from 1 Corinthians.

The NIV passage reads this way: 
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

I was focusing on the it is not easily angered, keeps no record of wrongs part and that's when the conviction fell. I was busted.  The very thing I was trying to instruct in my girls I felt the Lord say in my spirit; You too!

I have an area in my life, probably as close as a sister, where my heart is prickly. I get irritated quickly in this place and have been holding a running list in the back of my mind of offenses. Instead of looking to trust and hope I have been easily angered. And now I have been pegged on it! Oh goodness, Lord, if you make me hold hands for an hour and a half.....please no! I don't think you'll be as amused at my selfishness and immaturity as I was with my girls! HA!

My girls really do love each other and most of the time get along wonderfully. I am one blessed mom. And in this prickly area of mine, when all layers are pulled back, love is there too. Reminds me of Psalm 133:1 - Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! How true is that?! What parent doesn't want their children to get along and love each other well? God the Father included.

As I patiently(ahem) explained yet once again the acceptable sisterly behavior, grace for them rushed in me as the speech became less for them and more for me. And isn't that also just like God the Father too? How patient is he and how blessed am I! However, I'm still asking for the no holding hands discipline. Grin.

Precious Jesus, how great is your love that covers a multitude of sins! May I be a catalyst of your extravagant grace I receive. Thank you for your patience as your teach me yet again of your amazing love and what it is to love well. And please don't make me hold hands, please don't make me hold hands, pleeease don't make me hold hands! hahaha You are easy to love Lord, you are good and you do good! Thank you! 

Monday, January 28, 2013


Do you ever have those times where you are hearing and seeing the same thing over and over? That has definitely been going on here under the topic of rest. Multiple conversations with multiple people, in books I'm reading and in sermons I'm listening too. Seems God's trying to tell me something!

I wanted to share a few nuggets I've gleaned from the last few weeks.

     ~The greatest expression of faith in God is to rest in his care. - Joseph Prince

     ~Moses won the battle and the people he led experienced victory while he was seated (a position of rest).  Exodus 17: 8-13.

     ~Jesus fed 5,000 men and his preparation instructions were to have the people sit down (a position of rest).  John 6:10.

     ~The enemy is restless. (Matthew 12:43) This bring new context to 1 Peter 5:7-8: Cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. The instruction is to be in anxiety free - resting in Him. The enemy wants to rattle you and take your rest as he is restless.

     ~Rest does not mean inactivity. Rest means knowing and believing at your core that God is for you and not against you. -Joseph Prince

     ~Of the 10 commandments God gave, He spent the most words on instructions for the Sabbath, the day of rest - 98 words in the ESV translation. (Exodus 20:8-11)

     ~The Sabbath (the day or rest) isn't for the sake of the other days of the week, but the other days of the week are for the sake of Sabbath. This great day isn't an interlude but the climax of living. A. J. Heschel

     ~The Sabbath (the day of rest) isn't about what is done or left undone as much as breathing in the goodness of God. - Margaret Feinberg

     ~The fight of faith we have to fight is to enter his rest. (Hebrews 4:1-11)

     ~To not rest is disobedience and a form of unbelief. (Hebrews 3:18-19)

I am coming to realize that to rest is not a punishment, but a privilege. It puts me in a position of provision and enables me to see that God is who he says he is, that he does what he says he will do and eliminate any confusion about who gets the credit.

Where are you at unrest? What is the boiled down lie? How can you apply God's truth and enter the rest he has for you? Be encouraged today! He has green pastures, still waters and restoration for your soul! Fight to believe it! He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

Lord, there is no good thing you will withhold from us. May we fight to know that truth in the depths of our convictions and find rest for our hearts. You are so good! Thank you! 

Monday, January 21, 2013


It's a new year and I'm one who loves a fresh start. After a successful 30 pound loss a few years ago I joined Weight Watchers again to finally reach my goal. I stopped short last time thinking I could make it there on my own, but never did. Thankfully, I'm not back at square one, but actually right where I left off.

Last time I used the WW program, it was great! Very simple and easy to use. There is an app for it which made all the difference in my success. Every time I needed to make a decision about what to eat, I could consult my phone and was empowered to achieve my goal.  In the grocery store, out at a restaurant, even tips for portion sizes at those pot luck meals God lovin' church folk have, help was there.

If you are unfamiliar with how the WW plan works, each and every food is assigned a point value. Based on your starting place and goals, you are assigned an allotment of points each day to consume. You can earn points by exercise and there is also a weekly bank of extra points to pull from in the event of a sweet tooth that wont quit, a special occasion or an emotional/hormonal fit of desperation.

I really love this plan because it is so cut and dry. There is no guess work. There is also nothing that is totally off limits. I could have a Dairy Queen large vanilla malt shake! It would use my total daily allotment of points but I could do it! One of the best things about it is all fruits and veggies are zero points. So I could have that DQ milk shake and then eat salads and strawberries the rest of the day. Hey! There's a plan!

The good thing is I really do enjoy fruits and veggies. I have noticed in the past after a short time off refined sugar, natural sugar is plenty sweet and my craving for refined sugars are significantly less. And on those days I find myself really hungry, I can have all the apples and bananas I can handle. Of course those are the choices that lead to a healthy life and an ideal weight anyway. And herein lies a parallel I see in scripture.

We were given boundaries that Jesus summed up in saying love God and love others. Simple guidelines that should steer our every decision. Every choice can come under this filter: Will this enable to me love God and love others more? But there are times we are given to operate outside those borders and there is a bank of grace for that. Paul said that where sin abounds, grace abounds more.

There are also the fruit and veggies of life too. Paul gave us a list of actions in Galatians that we can do in abundance all day everyday; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. He said there are no limits on any of them. We can act fully in them with no recompense.

And just like fruits and veggies lead to a healthy life and idea weight, isn't it true that a life filled with the fruit of the Spirit lead us to being conformed into the image of Jesus? Also true is the craving issue. The more we indulge in the life in his Spirit, the less our desire is for the things of the flesh. How simple and concise. However, I'm pretty sure that self control is the equivalent of brussel sprouts. Bleh, someone pass me a Kiwi, that's gotta be joy or peace right?

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good! Psalm 34:8

Lord Jesus, you are so faithful. How simple is your plan for abundant life for us. Thank you for the smorgasbord of options in food and in actions. For those days when my willpower is gone and I need your stockpile of unending grace, my soul is eternally grateful. Thank you for being with me in every choice I have to make. May they make you proud. I love you Lord. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


When we moved to IL I envisioned the winter to be filled with six feet of snow for three and a half months. It was a hopeful dream for this former snow deprived Fl girl. When we got here, the winters certainly produced more snow than central FL ever saw but not the likes what I envision maybe North Dakota enjoys. I'm of the philosophy that if it's going to be cold, let it snow. And lots of it! But around here the normal seems to be an inch or two every three or four weeks.

Last week brought two snows in rapid succession. I was giddy! My girls and I got out in the yard and made snowmen. Dirty snowmen mind you. Two inches is not enough to create what Hollywood does, but we had a great time none the less. Lumps of coal for eyes and a carrot for the nose just like the storybooks. Stinky Pete's snowman got a belt. So fashionable.

Later that afternoon we were driving through town while the warmth of the day was bidding the snow it's inescapable demise, my eye was caught by the beauty of the remaining small snow piles and tiny heaps. In certain places it lingers longer because the sun can never find it. Some rocks and yards look comparatively deep as they hide in the winter's shadows.  Branches and gardens look picture perfect covered in a fluffy white blanket.

But other areas are exposed to the bright warm rays. Science proves that the shallowest places will melt first and reveal the brown, dead earth beneath. Places of comparatively thick cold snow beside warmer places, barren and exposed. There is something beautiful to behold here. It's almost as if the snow clings together is desperation to fight against the sun's warmth, bound and huddling tight to not give way to the unavoidable fate and reveal it's hidden captive. It's a hushed stillness that commands attention. 

Then I see it. It is a picture of my heart. Of your heart. Of all hearts. We are the dead brown earth. Some places we let people see with no regard, exposed and naked. Those are the secure parts of our life, confident in what we have become. But the other places, those places that never see the sun, that never feel it's warmth, that hold on to the snow like a cover to provide some sort of sense of dignity; those are the places of our hearts where our fears reside. Where our shame is hidden, where our wounds are wrapped up tight and most inner secrets kept. The places we want concealed from the world around us.

And it occurred to me, that's exactly what Jesus does! I love the analogy of how he washes my sins white as snow, but this day He showed me he not only washes me, he covers me. He covers my heart at it's coldest spot.  He clothes me thickest around my shame. He clings and binds himself to my deepest wounds. He wraps me up where I'm most afraid of the sun's exposure.  He heaps and piles himself where I need it most for the purpose of protection, but also so that what others see is only his beauty. 

Scripture gives beautiful accounts of how he covers us beginning in the garden with animals skin and through the desert with the Israelites by his cloud. But the most touching reference I found was in Ezekiel chapter 16. He is speaking to the nation of Israel as a whole, but individually this verse seems fitting in the barren, dead of winter. Verse 8 says this:
When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord God, and you became mine.
He covers us! With a blood covenant that cost him everything. And now we are his. Protected and hidden in his care. With our weaknesses safely exposed to him alone. Loved by a saviour that knows where we need him most. Covered by grace that runs deeper than any shadow.

Lord Jesus, how precious is your blood that not only washes me clean but covers me tenderly. What a beautiful saviour you are!

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Camry Experience

Years ago I heard a pastor share an illustration that has come to mind again and again recently.  He told a story of a time in his life where he needed a new vehicle. As he and his wife went to the car dealership they test drove several cars and came to settle on a Toyota Camry. The both very much liked the car and bought it. On the way home they noticed how many other Camrys there were on the road. In fact, several neighbors had one and they never realized it.  When they got home and showed the car to their teenage son, he was excited. He was familiar with the car and told his parents of several friends who also owned a Camry. It seemed as if Camrys were all around this family, but because they had not been in the market for a car, they didn't see them. 

And here is the parallel he made from this story. When we have an encounter with God our senses become awakened to him. When he speaks to us and we hear him it creates a fresh experience. It may be through scripture or a sermon. Through a friend or a devotion or a song.  But somewhere God gets our attention and we connect on a point. Our spirit becomes alive and we digest his life-giving word. It is a moment where we know this is God. Then as time passes, it's as though we see that truth everywhere again and again and our soul is thrilled and refreshed at each recognition. And we discover once more his omnipresence is real.  

The first way I can relate that comes to mind is the time when I was getting married. I remember as soon as I said yes it seemed as if everyone around me was also getting married. It felt like every billboard, commercial, TV show and magazine article was about weddings and engagements. Dresses, rings, cakes and flowers were everywhere I looked.  It was definitely because my senses were heightened to the experience in my own life.  

Here in more recent months this has been happening a lot with words like "all" and "seed" and "open". And I love it!  There is something so great about a fresh encounter with God. It is exciting like a new car or getting married. And when he confirms it by opening my eyes to see the same thing here or there, I just love that! What a comfort to realize he is all around me working and moving, involved and present.  He is creating an appetite in me for him. 

What about you? What was the last encounter you had with God? What is he showing you repeatedly? Or, are you in the market for a fresh experience? Has God ever surprised you with a promise that was precious like a diamond? Do share!

Matthew 20:32-33 - And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 

Be encouraged today, his name is Emmanuel - God with us!

Monday, July 2, 2012


My grandmother has very thin skin. The slightest bump or scratch will bring up huge black and blue bruises that look as though she has taken a pounding. Often times she doesn't even know what happened but finds that once again something evidently did happen. Sometimes it looks as though she's been trying to be a stunt double for Jason Borne. Ok, maybe not that bad. But the point is her tender skin, along with the glorious wisdom of 83 years of life, leaves her to be cautious and selective as to what activities she might engage in.

The Lord brought her to mind this morning as he showed me Luke 4:18:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.

This is one of my most favorite passages of scripture. The context is Jesus just coming out from his 40 day fast in the wilderness and then beginning his ministry. He enters the temple, stands to read, finds this passage from Isaiah and as the words come from his lips, the entire room is captivated by the grace in his voice and the anointing in his message.

That last line jumped of the page. I looked up the word oppressed and came to find that is also means bruised. He came to set free those who are bruised. My heart and emotions became flooded with his grace.

As I thought about what it means to be bruised and what causes bruises, this line became more and more precious. It's no secret that life bumps our souls around. Sometimes we have attempted a Jason Borne stunt that left us a mess, but other times we don't even know what it is that injured us. A difficulty. A worry. A diagnosis. A loss. An incident that leaves a mark and says there is something broken here. Too often before we know it we find ourselves covered in blemishes that eventually lead us through life guarded and unable to do all we want to.  But this is why he came! To set those of us that are wounded and live life reservedly free! Not free from pain; he has promised there will be troubles. But to be free from being so quick to bleed for ourselves. Free to abandon ourselves to his care and to bleed for others. This is the exact example he showed us. With no regard to himself he lived a life offered for others and hemorrhaged on our behalf. 

A few lines later in the passage that Jesus read from in Isaiah he tells us the reason he came: That they may be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified (Isaiah 61:3).

You see, freedom is the place where we no longer take precaution for our own soul and emotions. We are such poor gate keepers at that anyway. Freedom is being convinced of the Father's great love for us. Convinced past a head knowledge, but graciously overwhelmed and compelled to action. That is what it looks like to be an oak tree planted by the Lord. Solid and firm in him with branches that bring shade, relief and shelter. Leaves that exchange toxins for life and bring color and beauty. Righteousness planted by him and for him.

He was sent to set at liberty those who are oppressed.

So, after you pull back all the layers, what is at the heart of what's squeezing you? What would bring you freedom?

He came for that.

Precious Jesus you became sin that I might become righteous. Unimaginable! Whatever safety and security I have falsely accrued I count as loss that I may gain you. May I be found in you; sharing in your sufferings and in death to self. Help me to see the freedom you are before me. I believe Lord, help me in my unbelief. You are so good! 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Taking every thought captive

Some Monday mornings I wake up and am ready to charge hell with a water gun. Other Mondays I wake up and the smallest trickle of water can put out my seemingly dwindling embers. This morning seemed as if there were only smoldering ashes and the booming thunder of an immanent rainstorm was echoing loudly.

That's how the enemy works isn't it? Like a lion that roars and threatens the weak and wounded. But there is truth greater than the lies he hurls at us. And it brings us to a fork in the road. What will we believe today? What thoughts will we dwell on? Will we live like we know the truth or like the lies are reality?

2 Timothy 1:6-7 says: For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For the Spirit of God did not make us timid but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

I don't think I'm the only one the enemy is lying to. How about we fan these embers with some truth? We can burn for him even in a downpour.

In Jesus I am:

~loved! John 3:16 For God so loved (insert your name) that he gave his one and only son that when (     ) believes in him, (     ) will not perish but have everlasting life.

~chosen! Ephesians 1:4 Even as he chose (     ) in him before the foundation of the world that (     ) should be holy and blameless before him.

~made new! 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if (     ) is in Christ, (     ) is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come. (Last year, last week, last night is gone! Today is a new day!)

~confident! Philippians 1:6 I am certain that God, who began a good work within (     ), will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

~victorious! Romans 8:37 No, in all these things (     ) is more than a conqueror through him who loves (    ).

~free! Galations 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set (     ) free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Read that one again! We do not have to be slaves to anything. Not to emotions, not to addictions, not to fear, not to the past - he has set us free!)

He is working. In us, around us and through us. He sees us. He knows us. He loves us. He is with us. And He is greater! Praise his name!

Be encouraged today and fan those embers with the truth till that flame is roaring hot and burning off those lies and sharing the light with others who are in the dark. This is what we were made for!

Thank you Jesus for the truth of your word. Wash my mind in it today. All attention belongs to you Lord. You are so good!  

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Naked and Unashamed

The subject of condemnation has been in front of me for several weeks now. It's a trigger topic for me. One that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I fight against with all I have. The Lord has been showing me several things lately and yesterday was the most beautiful thing yet.

To condemn means to express strong disapproval or adverse judgement. It is everything we should feel in the presence of a holy God apart from Jesus if that could that even be attained. Whether it is real or imagined, projected or self imposed, it is one of the most awful and painful things to deal with. God sent his Son not because he disapproves of us, but exactly the opposite, because of his great love for us. John 3:16-18 gives lots of insight to this.

Yesterday I was reading John Piper's book The Momentary Marriage and he was discussing Adam and Eve and the original marriage. He talks about the reason Adam and Eve were able to be naked and unashamed is not because they were perfect and had nothing to be ashamed of. Although this was a possibility, Piper gives a few reasons this theology doesn't work. He suggests the reason they were able to be shameless was because they were in the fullness of covenant love. In other words, they were free from shame because they had no fear of disapproval from each other.

Oh how I love this! It made me think of Hebrews 4:13 - And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him who we must give an account.

And a most alluring picture is made when we tie this in with 1 John 4:18 - There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been made perfect in love.

Did you catch that? We are already naked and exposed before him and his love that endures forever  casts out fear of punishment. I love that! Did I mention I love that?

You see, in the garden Adam and Eve experienced the completeness of God's pledged love. There was no reason to fear His disapproval of them. There was absolute vulnerability and boundless assurance. That is the original way God wanted to be in relationship with us. For us to be able to know the freedom of taking every thought, every question, every hope, dream and desire to him and never feeling like he might disapprove of us.

What happened in the fall, and in every situation we are prone to feel condemned, the enemy whispers in all manor and variety of words but the same idea: "You can't really trust His perfect love." The enemy throws out a bait of doubt and if we take it, his classic calling card of shame is sure to follow.

I fully believe that Eve could have taken that apple to God and said "Hey God, this snake is telling me something about good and evil. What is that? What does he mean?" God is big enough and secure enough in who he is that he can handle our questions. He created our frail frame and knows just how limited we are. I would dare suggests he even expects our questions as we saw that he walked with Adam and Even in the cool of the day.  In the same way that I hope and expect my kids to come to me with all their questions and hopes, fears and dreams, I believe those were the same conversations God had with Adam and Eve on their evening walks.

He offers through Jesus, and desires for all people, to experience the beautiful gift of being naked and unashamed.  Totally transparent, and completely without fear. As John said "made perfect in love." These are the examples we saw him live out in his encounters with Nicodemus, the woman at the well and the woman caught in adultery.

This is the picture he wants to paint in a marriage - a bride and a groom unveiled and unafraid. This is the picture he wants for the body of Christ to express - forgiven and free to confess our sins to each other. This is the picture of love - not that we have nothing to be ashamed of, but living in a genuine alliance that covers a multitude of sins.

This is the covenant He has made with us. A blood covenant through his Son. One without condemnation where we are safe to be naked and unashamed.

If God says his chosen ones are acceptable to him, can anyone bring charges against them? Or can anyone condemn them? No indeed! Christ died and was raised to life, and now he is at God's right side, speaking to him for us. Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death? No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:33-37

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